Travel Expert and Radio Talk Show Host Stephanie Abrams - Travelers411 Travel Radio Shownotes - April 16, 2011
"Travelers411" Radio Show - April 16, 2011
img Exploring the West of Ireland by Bus and Ferry with Galway Bay Executive Travel, County Galway, Ireland; American Credit Cards Lack Chip-and-PIN Technology Required for Use in Europe; Keith Lockhart Takes the Boston Pops on a Summer Tour of American Music and Ballparks; The Chip-and-PIN-Equipped Cash Passport from Travelex.

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Hour 1

Topics Include:

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Gerry Keane, Owner and Director, Galway Bay Executive Travel, County Galway, Ireland.
www.galwaybayexecutivetravel.ie

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travelers411" Radio Show get around Galway with Gerry Keane, Director of Galway Bay Executive Travel in County Galway, Ireland. Gerry and Galway Bay Executive Travel recently launched a hop-on, hop-off bus service that takes travelers around County Galway. Routes include service from Galway to Lahinch, County Clare, stops at Lisdoonvarna and Liscannor, as well as ferries to the Aran Islands and Cliffs of Moher.

Scenery along the Doolin Ferries Aran Islands and Inisheer itinerary.
Scenery along the Doolin Ferries Aran Islands and Inisheer itinerary.

What inspired the launch of this brand-new service? "A lot of people who come over didn't like the completely scheduled day tours," says Gerry. "So we decided to try something completely different. It offers the customer a lot of flexibility and allows you to see what the region has to offer in your own time. We don't have anyone standing in the corner telling you that it's time to go now. You get an insight into what the west of Ireland has to offer by seeing local life, local villages, local people, and becoming part of the life."

Racing ships during the Volvo Ocean Race in Galway Bay.
Racing ships during the Volvo Ocean Race in Galway Bay.

The service launched on April 8 and is scheduled to run through October, coinciding with the schedule of the Doolin ferries. "We stop around October because the sea changes, it gets dark, and lots of seasonal towns start to close down," explains Gerry. During the season, however, buses will run 7 days a week. Travelers can arrange a package tour that combines bus trips with ferry trips.

Aillwee cave in County Clare.
Aillwee cave in County Clare.

Ferries run from the town of Doolin to the Aran Islands. "When you hop on the bus, if you decide you want to go out, the ferry leaves the port at 10," Gerry says. "You arrive on the island at 10:30, and we can arrange a guided tour, or you can go around by pony cart. The guided tour takes 45 minutes, then you have some leisure time until 2 p.m. You'll get the connecting ferry back into Doolin Pier.

Celebrations in Galway Bay during the Volvo Ocean Race.
Celebrations in Galway Bay during the Volvo Ocean Race.

"From there, you can take a cruise to the Cliffs of Moher," he continues. "The views there are fantastic. What you'll see from the ground is amazing, but what you see from the ocean is just unbelievable. It really emphasizes the bird life – over 50,000 birds make their nests on the cliffs. When you see it from the water, you really believe it. After that, you have a nice relaxed journey back to Galway and are back in port by 6:30 p.m."

Galway Bay Hotel.
Galway Bay Hotel.

Stephanie took a trip to the Cliffs of Moher with Doolin Ferries and was duly impressed. "Being out on the water and looking at the puffins – they're a show all by themselves, with their big fat orange feet," she recalls. "You think they're never going to get into the air as they scamper along the cliffside. But they're really quite remarkable, and it's great fun to see."

Doolin Ferry Jack B cruises to Inisheer and Cliffs of Moher.
Doolin Ferry Jack B cruises to Inisheer and Cliffs of Moher.

Travelers hoping to plan a trip with Galway Bay Executive Travel can look on the company's website for sample itineraries and timetables. Gerry emphasizes that the schedules are easy to follow and travel times are short. Passengers leaving Galway at 8 a.m., for example, arrive in Lisdoonvarna at 9:20 a.m. From there, the bus continues to Doolin Pier, Moher, and Lahinch, where it arrives at 10:20 a.m.

Connemara in County Galway.
Connemara in County Galway.

Along the way, Gerry suggests stopping at the matchmaking festival held every September in Lisdoonvarna, the links golf course in Lahinch, or the surfing beach in Lahinch. "There's a famous golf course there, plus it's become extremely popular as one of the top surfing beaches in Ireland," he explains. "If you want to come with your equipment, it's no problem – we have plenty of luggage space. And if you haven't got a surfboard, we've teamed up with Lahinch Surf School so everything is covered and discounts are available. If you want to play a round of golf, we have return service from Lahinch at 4 p.m., which gives you a full day there."

Route signs in Connemara, County Galway.
Route signs in Connemara, County Galway.

Galway Bay Executive Travel also offers tours and cars for hire. "It's not a big deal to drive on the left side," Gerry promises, "but if you have it in your head that it will be, you can let someone else do the driving." The bus, however, stops at a variety of attractions and destinations in the region, including the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, and Doolin Caves. (Stephanie is quick to point out that many of these are actually in County Clare.)

Connemara in County Galway.
Connemara in County Galway.

Guests who take the ferry to the Aran Islands will feel as though they've stepped back hundreds of years. "You can go pony-carting around the island," Stephanie says. "Today, though, there's a nice pub where you can get a pint or an ice cream before getting back on the ferry – which looks more like a yacht, actually." Interested travelers should turn up at 8 a.m. at the New Galway Coach Station, just opposite the Discover Ireland office on Forster Street.

Snow capped mountains in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland.
Snow capped mountains in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland.

Even visitors in Ennis can travel with Galway Bay Executive Travel by making their way to Lahinch. "If you get to Lahinch, you can eventually connect with our service – we do loops throughout the day," Gerry says. "If you want to get some of the scenery and intend to travel on to Galway, you can meet up with us in Lahinch. There's a fantastic golf course and it's a fantastic seaside town. Or you can come to Doolin, take the cruise at noon, we'll take you back down, and you can make your way back down to Ennis." Gerry especially recommends a stop in Doolin for travelers interested in live Irish music.

Abbeyglen Castle in Clifden in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland.
Abbeyglen Castle in Clifden in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland.

Travel Tips: Stephanie recommends taking advantage of hotels' stay, park, fly packages. These packages often offer 10 nights or more of free parking to hotel guests. "On average, the cost of parking is $12 to $22, depending on the market," she says. "Say you get a rate of $10 a day – which is a decent rate – for 10 days. It's going to cost you at least $100, plus tax. If you can get a hotel room for $120 or $140, it's only costing you $20 or $40 to stay at the hotel. At better hotels, this is a real bargain."

Abbeyglen Castle in Clifden in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland.
Abbeyglen Castle in Clifden in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland.

Staying at an airport hotel can also be a big advantage when taking early morning flights or parking in a large metropolitan area. "You might want to inspect the place when you're parking your car," Stephanie advises. "Make sure it has security cameras and real people patrolling. If you're in a busy city, you want to know that your car will be delivered back to you the way you left it. We had one incident where we parked in the basement garage of a hotel. It looked just fine, but it nearly ruined the paint job on the car, thanks to stuff dripping from the ceiling."

Clifden Town, Connemara, County Galway, ireland.
Clifden Town, Connemara, County Galway, ireland.

A big challenge for U.S. travelers is the chip-and-PIN technology used for credit cards in other countries, especially in Europe. "It's making it impossible for the American traveler to have a peaceful day of travel in Europe," says Stephanie. "European banks came out with this feature in order to minimize fraud and identity theft. But no U.S. credit cards have the chip-and-PIN technology! MasterCard, Visa, American Express – none.

Matt Molloy's Pub in Connemar, County Galway, Ireland.
Matt Molloy's Pub in Connemar, County Galway, Ireland.

"Even in places with the credit card decal on the window, your card can still be declined," she continues. "In one place, they took my card and tried to swipe it through the system, which didn't work. So the sale was started but not completed. Because it wasn't completed, the bank decided that somebody must have stolen the card, and that's why the PIN wasn't entered. And in their infinite wisdom, the bank froze the account. So 20 minutes after I couldn't buy two sweaters in a shop, we went down the road to buy gas and they said the card was no good. It's a really serious problem – imagine going off to Europe with a credit card you can't use anywhere!" Without the chip-and-PIN technology, that's exactly what's happening to American travelers.

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3257

For more information visit www.galwaybayexecutivetravel.ie


Guests Include:

Gerry Keane, Owner and Director, Galway Bay Executive Travel, County Galway, Ireland.
www.galwaybayexecutivetravel.ie

Hour 2

Topics Include:

Link to this segment

Keith Lockhart, Conductor, Boston Pops Orchestra, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
www.bostonpops.org
www.tanglewood.org

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travelers411" Radio Show listen in with Keith Lockhart, Conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra in Boston, Massachusetts. Keith listened to the last segment and reports that on a recent trip to London, he, too, had trouble using his American credit card. He's currently at home in Brookline, Massachusetts, and looking forward to a trip to Salt Lake City to conduct the Utah Symphony, of which he's conductor emeritus.

Kieth Lochart at Tanglewood.
Kieth Lochart at Tanglewood.

Coming up on the agenda is the 2011 Boston Pops season. "It's a big one – our 126th year, starting May 11 and running through June 26," he says. "I'm very happy with the season; it's such a celebration of American music in all its forms. We have not only the Boston Pops, but we'll be joined by Michael Feinstein, Kenny Loggins, Ricky Skaggs – it's a really good season of great music centered around America's orchestra, the Boston Pops."

Kieth Lochart at Tanglewood.
Kieth Lochart at Tanglewood.

The Pops will also make a few appearances at Tanglewood in summer 2011. "John Williams is out there with James Taylor on July 1, and I'll be there with a wonderful Cole Porter show on July 17," Keith adds. "We just did a fabulously successful tour with it in Florida. And then there's Tanglewood on Parade, and Film Night with John Williams is on August 20 this year."

Boston's Symphony Hall.
Boston's Symphony Hall.

Tanglewood on Parade is a day of music featuring performances by everyone at Tanglewood, from student groups to the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops. Stephanie has heard everything from chamber music to Dixieland and pipers in kilts in various places on the Tanglewood campus. The day ends with a huge orchestra concert in the Shed, including a performance of the 1812 Overture accompanied by fireworks and attended by upwards of 10,000 people.

Holiday Pops.
Holiday Pops.

What's Keith's favorite upcoming concert? "I try not to divulge those things, because everything should be my favorite," he admits. "But I really think the Cole Porter show is going to be special. I'm also excited about our tour this year. It's our very first tour of minor league baseball stadiums across the southeast and mid-Atlantic, from August 16 to 30. We're touring along with legendary singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins. It's an amazing way to bring the family down and have them experience some music. We'll be playing music from the movies, music about baseball, and a tribute to our very own John Williams for his 80th birthday."

Holiday Pops, K eith Lockhart conducting.
Holiday Pops, K eith Lockhart conducting.

The tour starts in Durham, North Carolina and swings through baseball parks in Fort Mills, South Carolina; Lawrenceville, Georgia; Nashville, Tennessee; Memphis, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; Buffalo, Syracuse, and Rochester, New York; and New Britain, Connecticut. "It's really going to be fun," Keith adds. "I think there's no more relaxed and all-American way to hear the Pops. If you live in one of these places, get in touch with the schedule at your local ballpark to find out when we're going to be there."

Holiday Pops, K eith Lockhart conducting.
Holiday Pops, K eith Lockhart conducting.

The orchestra makes long-haul trips by air, then takes buses between venues. "We're taking buses more these days because of the cost of air travel," Keith explains. The instruments, however, usually travel in cargo, unless the orchestra has to play in two venues that are far apart in a short period of time. Although there are stories of orchestras and bands buying seats for their basses, Keith says this only happens in extreme cases, because instruments don't travel well in the hold of a plane.

Holiday Pops, K eith Lockhart conducting.
Holiday Pops, K eith Lockhart conducting.

Who chooses the music for the Boston Pops? "Ultimately, that's my responsibility," says Keith. "I have a staff that makes suggestions, but it's ultimately my choice." And who has had the most influence on his career? "Leonard Bernstein," he says. "He's the choice for any American conductor, because he got it all right: he was a public persona, an educator, a pianist, a conductor...he's the standard we're all trying to reach up to."

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3258

For more information visit www.bostonpops.org and www.tanglewood.org


Link to this segment

Jon Dario, President, Travelex Currency Services, New York, USA.
www.us.travelex.com

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travelers411" Radio Show discuss chip-and-PIN technology with Jon Dario, President of Travelex Currency Services in New York. On a recent trip to Europe, Stephanie had problems using her U.S. credit card because it does not have a chip and PIN. Most European credit cards, however, have this technology, and stores are often set up to accept this. "I ran into trouble every day when trying to use my credit card," she recalls. "It's a critical subject because the last thing you need is to be stranded without money."

Travelex Cash Passport.
Travelex Cash Passport.

The problem is twofold. Many shops or kiosks will not accept credit cards without a chip and PIN. Businesses that do accept American credit cards will often try to swipe them and then ask for a PIN. (This is not the same PIN associated with ATM cards.) When the PIN cannot be entered, the bank sees it as an incomplete transaction. Stephanie's bank flagged this as fraudulent activity and actually froze the account.

Hampshire Bar and Restaurant in London, England, UK.
Hampshire Bar and Restaurant in London, England, UK.

"People in the shop just don't know what to do with it," she says. "I've asked them to call the credit card company – they're a seller, I'm a buyer, we have to be able to make this work. But sometimes it just doesn't work. So you try to buy 2 items in a shop and have to leave without your merchandise. And American banks are really dragging their feet because they don't want to go to the expense of issuing these cards. So I went into stores that had the logo in the window, but they couldn't take my card because it had no chip."

L'Arc de Triumph in Paris, France.
L'Arc de Triumph in Paris, France.

Travelers have limited options when facing this problem. "What are you going to do?" Stephanie asks. "You can go back to the archaic system of traveler's checks and hope that places will actually accept them. You can take a lot of cash. Or you can just keep trying places until you find one that takes your card. But what are you going to do if, for example, you're sending a student over with a credit card and the card doesn't work?"

Garmisch, Germany.
Garmisch, Germany.

Another option is the chip-and-PIN Cash Passport from Travelex. Travelers buy the card, which has the chip-and-PIN technology, and load money onto it in the foreign currency of their choice. For a trip to London and Paris, for example, they would buy one card in pounds sterling and one in euros. "Banks and major credit card companies are really focused on domestic business," explains Jon. "But Travelex is the world's largest specialist in the foreign exchange business, so we're intently focused on addressing these types of customer problems."

Zoo in Portugal.
Zoo in Portugal.

The Cash Passport essentially works like a reloadable debit card. "You can either come to a Travelex location or, starting April 18, 2011, you can do this on our website," says Jon. "You tell us how many euros or pounds you want, or how much in dollars you want to load. The conversion is done immediately, so your card is holding either euros or pounds. You're instantly shielded from any exchange rate fluctuations. The card has a MasterCard logo, so you can use it anywhere that the sign is shown, including ATMs, point of sale, or automated payment kiosks."

Farmers market in Barcelona, Spain.
Farmers market in Barcelona, Spain.

Once customers have paid to load the card initially, Travelex charges no additional transaction fees or ATM withdrawal fees. "We do charge a fee on the initial load – an exchange rate markup," Jon explains. "The rate depends on where you purchase the card and how much you load. It can be as low as 3.75%, which is lower than most foreign exchange fees that banks charge on credit cards. That's when you load $2,500 up front, which is easily less than most people spend in a week abroad. If you buy the card online, the rate on any amount will be about 6.5%."

Cafe in Austria.
Cafe in Austria.

The Travelex Cash Passport is also replaceable if lost or stolen. Travelers who buy the card at a Travelex location are given a second card free, just in case. And even if the card is stolen, it's unlikely that someone else will be able to access the cash, since the chip-and-PIN technology requires that a PIN be entered to use the card. "That's one of the great advantages of that system," says Jon. "So you give us a call on our toll-free number, that card is canceled, and we switch your funds to another card. Our call center is in the UK, so we're on the European time zone, and there's someone there all the time."

Travelers411 Directory Listing:
Visit the Travelers411 Travelex Directory Listing for more commercial free interviews and information about the Travelex Cash Passport Chip and Pin Card for EU and UK currency.

Related Photo Galleries:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/album.php?albumid=547

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3259

For more information visit www.us.travelex.com


Travel Tips:

Stephanie recently got a booklet from American Express detailing the benefits of their next-generation credit card. American Express Platinum cardholders who apply for the new Global Entry Trusted Traveler program can use their card to pay the application fee. Instead of paying $100 each year for the program, they'll pay $100 for five years. The American Express Platinum card also has no foreign transaction fees. "The booklet says that no matter what the country, you can save on fees and enjoy protection for eligible purchases," says Stephanie. "That's great, if they'll actually process your card abroad!"

American Express.
American Express.

Guests Include:

Keith Lockhart, Conductor, Boston Pops Orchestra, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
www.bostonpops.org
www.tanglewood.org

Jon Dario, President, Travelex Currency Services, New York, USA.
www.us.travelex.com

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